Effective Practices : Field Trips


Field Trips
Pedagogical Operations Section 3

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1. Does your school have field trips that recur year after year? If yes, please list those trips that occur most routinely, and the grade in which each field trip occurs.
2. Field trips tend to be curriculum specific, and recur in the same grade each year, but with a new teacher coordinating the details each time. How does your school keep track of all the various logistical details so that teachers do not have to reinvent the organizational process each time? For example, does your school require teachers to put together a special field trip file that is then maintained in a centralized area for easy reference by new teachers in subsequent years?
3. What is your school’s policy with regard to transportation to field trips? Does all transportation take place on a bus or other school-owned or contracted vehicles, or are parent drivers used to help with transportation and supervision? How was this policy developed? Attach a copy of your school field trip transportation policy.
4. If parent drivers are permitted to serve as drivers on field trips, describe your school’s insurance and licensing requirements for drivers. Describe what type of checking is done with regard to the parent’s driving record prior to the field trip.
5. What is working particularly well with regard to your school’s coordination of field trips?
6. If there were something that you could change with regard to the manner in which field trips are coordinated what would it be and why?

PED 3-1

Does your school have field trips that recur year after year? If yes, please list those trips that occur most routinely, and the grade in which each field trip occurs.
Waldorf schools tend to have curriculum related field trips that recur from year to year. Typical field trips might include:

  • 3rd grade farming
  • 4th grade trip with a focus on local history
  • 5th grade pentathlon with other Waldorf schools
  • 6th grade medieval games with other Waldorf schools
  • 7th grade camping, often with a ropes course experience
  • 8th grade class trip
  • 9th grade camping with a geology focus
  • 10th grade camping with a national History focus
  • 11th grade camping with a biology or botany focus
  • 12th grade senior class trip

While the general focus of the trip stays the same each year, teachers are often left free to make changes to the individual trips based on the needs of the class and the experience of other teachers in prior years. Changes might include alternate campsites or service providers, although teachers are generally allowed to re-imagine the entire field trip experience if a change best suits the needs of the class.

PED 3-2

Field trips tend to be curriculum specific, and recur in the same grade each year, but with a new teacher coordinating the details each time. How does your school keep track of all the various logistical details so that teachers do not have to reinvent the organizational process each time? For example, does your school require teachers to put together a special field trip file that is then maintained in a centralized area for easy reference by new teachers in subsequent years?
In most schools information on field trips is kept in a centralized place, either in a field trip notebook or in files maintained in the office. Several schools report that they have benefited by having one or more people in the administration assigned as the field trip coordinator for the school. In these cases a member of the office staff is designated as the field trip coordinator. Schools with high schools often split this responsibility between a member of the office staff for the lower school and the high school administrative coordinator for the high school.

It is the job of the field trip coordinator to maintain all of the records of past trips, arrange all busses, send out permission slips, collect any needed fees, and make reservations if needed. In this approach teachers are not required to put together a field trip file as this is done by office personnel. In schools which have not assigned this duty to someone in the office it is the teacher, working with her room rep, who must do all of the above tasks.

In addition to the field trip coordinator, another valuable resource is the guidance that the outgoing class teacher or sponsor can share with the incoming teacher. In this way insights about what did and didn’t work can be shared and adjustments made on future field trips.

PED 3-3

What is your school’s policy with regard to transportation to field trips? Does all transportation take place on a bus or other school-owned or contracted vehicles, or are parent drivers used to help with transportation and supervision? How was this policy developed? Attach a copy of your school field trip transportation policy.
Due to liability concerns most mature schools provide busses for all field trips. These schools may allow teachers to drive rental cars in rare instances where the class has flown to a distant location. In these instances the school typically asks their insurance company to check the driving record of the teacher prior to the trip.

Schools that allow parent drivers have adopted various policies to minimize their exposure. These policies include requiring two adults to be in every car, and requiring copies of each driver’s license, registration, and insurance policy. Each of the schools that still allow parent drivers noted that this practice is being significantly scaled back as liability concerns have continued to escalate.

PED 3-4

If parent drivers are permitted to serve as drivers on field trips, describe your school’s insurance and licensing requirements for drivers. Describe what type of checking is done with regard to the parent’s driving record prior to the field trip.
In addition to the copies of a driver’s license, insurance and registration noted above, teachers also provide input about the drivers who will go on a trip. There are often times when a teacher will prevent a particular parent from driving or attending a trip due to safety or social issues.

PED 3-5

What is working particularly well with regard to your school’s coordination of field trips?
The teachers notify each other of field trips in advance, and post the field trip dates on a board in the faculty lounge.

In the high school there is an effort to have all extended field trips occur at the same time. This prevents a problem that occurred in the past when a single class left on a field trip. In the high school many of the classes have multiple grades based on student ability, and it can be difficult when one class is gone on a field trip as it leaves the subject teacher with the challenge of whether to teach material during periods of high absenteeism due to the field trip, or to treat the time as a period of review only.

The school has purchased a trailer that is available to classes for camping trips. The trailer is loaded with supplies and follows the bus to the camping site. This also ensures that the class has at least one vehicle for emergency transportation during longer trips when the bus does not stay for the duration of the trip.

The lower school faculty discusses all field trips and shares information on what did and didn’t work. This can be very helpful to the incoming class teacher.

The support of the office person on all aspects of field trip planning works particularly well.

All fieldtrips are placed on the school master calendar as soon as they are planned. We look at the master calendar every week on a rolling two month basis so we’re sure that all trips are well planned and their impact on the school (like on the hot lunch program) is fully considered.

The use of centralized notebooks for each class trip works well, and the teachers use these resources regularly.

Cell phone communication is used to activate phone trees if the trip is running late.

A copy of the emergency information is given to each driver on the field trip for every student in the class.

PED 3-6

If there were something that you could change with regard to the manner in which field trips are coordinated what would it be and why?
It would be worth while for the school to invest in another trailer.

We would benefit from more consistency with regard to the transportation policy. The question of busses versus cars is a difficult one, and it would be helpful for us to have clear guidelines on when each approach is appropriate.

The school has created a written policy that will be included in next year’s parent handbook that describes the qualifications and expectations of parents who serve as drivers and chaperones on school field trips (See: Class Trips).


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